Not Meeting With Senators Is A New Low In The Supreme Court Confirmation Process

03/30/2017 07:58 pm ET Updated Apr 05, 2017

The reviews of last week’s Judiciary Committee hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch have been devastating.

“He seemed to have trouble concealing contempt for the process, his questioners, and the public itself.”

Grossness.”

His answers to written follow up questions have been described as “cagey” and “continuing to dodge Democratic senators' questions.”

But the latest report from Politico must be a mistake. This can’t possibly be true:

Another Democratic senator, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, also announced her opposition to Gorsuch on Thursday. But in addition to the nominee’s record, Cortez Masto raised another issue: Gorsuch had declined to meet with her.
For weeks, the freshman Nevada senator has sought a private meeting with Gorsuch. But Cortez Masto has been rebuffed each time, said her spokesman, Reynaldo Benitez.
Her final try for a sit-down with Gorsuch was Thursday, Benitez said.
“They literally said, give me a good reason why the judge should go sit down with the senator,” Benitez said. [emphasis added] “It is disappointing that a judge who is nominated to a lifetime appointment refuses to sit down with a United States senator whose job it is to advise and consent on his confirmation.”
Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who is undecided on Gorsuch, also said that the nominee's team had canceled a meeting, and she is unsure if it will be rescheduled.

In 2009 and 2010, I was Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, and I led the Senate outreach and strategy for the confirmations of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. Out of respect for the process, the Senate as an institution, and Senators as individuals, we proactively offered a courtesy meeting to every single Senator.

And at the end of the day, Justice Sotomayor met with what we believe is a record 93 Senators, and Justice Kagan met with about 75.

We knew going in that not every Senator was going to vote for their nominations—and that some likely had already made up their minds to oppose—but that wasn’t the point.

Justice Sotomayor met with Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC – and now President of the Heritage Foundation) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) the same day as Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

She met with Senator David Vitter (R-LA) the same day as Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Why?

Because these meetings are about more than just trying to win votes. They are about respect for the Senate as an institution—a co-equal branch of government that is constitutionally responsible for providing advice and consent on Supreme Court nominations.

If you don’t understand this, that raises serious questions about your judgment and independence.

And I’m not saying that Judge Gorsuch himself is necessarily behind these decisions to refuse to meet with Senators Cortez Masto and Duckworth. Maybe he didn’t even know about the requests.

But now that he presumably knows, he is responsible to address the deep disrespect that these Senators—and likely many other Senators on their behalf—rightly feel.

If he had time this week to meet a second time with Senator Manchin, surely, he has time to meet Senators Cortez Masto and Duckworth.

I truly hope that Judge Gorsuch’s team did not “literally” ask for a good reason the judge should meet with these Senators. But if they did, it’s asked and answered: they are United States Senators. That’s the only reason you should possibly need.

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